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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

X is for XMAS

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

X is for XMAS in the list of Christmas traditions from A to Z.  An abbreviation for Christmas is a definition of XMAS. However, there is more to the story of the tradition of using XMAS for Christmas. 

is for Xmas

X is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, and "mas" is taken from a Latin-derived Old English word for mass. 

In English, "X" was first used by a scribe to abbreviate Christ in 1100. The first known use of XMAS for Christmas was in 1721.

Therefore, the original groups using XMAS for Christmas were religious groups. Over time more people used the shortened version of Christmas. 

Xmas was commonly used in advertisements in the early 20th century. The Ladies' Home Journal ran an advertisement in December 1922 using Xmas. 

Also in December 1922, this advertisement ran in the St. Augustine Evening Record, a daily newspaper in St. Augustine, Florida.  

Christmas cards also used XMAS as shown in this 1910 card.

In recent years the use of XMAS has sparked different groups to express opinions about whether or not to use XMAS for Christmas. 

Style guides to writing adopted by The New York Times, The Times (British daily paper), The Guardian (British daily paper), and the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) do not support using XMAS in their publications.  

As early as 1948, the Vogue's Book of Etiquette stated, "'Xmas' in greeting cards should never be used." 

In a 2004 updated version of The Christian Writer's Manual of Style, published by Zondervan, states XMAS should never be used in formal writing even though the manual recognized the respectful use of XMAS in the past. 

While centuries old historical use of XMAS was based on religious groups' practice of abbreviating the Greek word for Christ, current trends recommend only using XMAS in informal writing where space is an issue. 


All Christmas traditions are based on personal preferences. As for me, I never use XMAS, but do not think it is disrespectful to do so. After all, its use was begun by religious scribes centuries ago.